By Tyler King
June 30, 2015
“Section 108” is moving up in the world.
Last Friday I abandoned the outfield/500-level seats I’m accustomed to in exchange for a 300-level suite.
But, admittedly, the corporate look doesn’t suit me. It just doesn’t feel right.
The opposing bullpen couldn’t hear me from up there and for some reason chirps I wouldn’t think twice about heckling “down there” seemed a lot more offensive “up here”.
Tonight, as the Jays play Game 2of their series against the Boston Red Sox, it’s back to reality and the cheap(er) seats.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For a night, however, the suite was a nice change of pace. Accompanied by other Canadian Baseball Network writers, bloggers, managers, and contest winners we were treated to comfortable seats, endless food, and a Blue Jays rout of the Texas Rangers.
Oh yea, there was one more surprise that nobody was expecting...
We got to meet JOE CARTER.
(Yes, the same Joe Carter who hit the most famous home run in Blue Jays history in 1993).
I was only four-years-old when Carter’s Jays won their second World Series Championship, but I probably remember his walk off home run better than my parents - thanks to YouTube (and my parents’ technological ignorance).
My go to “Touch Em All” video has 81,000 views on YouTube, and honestly I’m probably responsible for half of those.
As a writer, I feel like I should be able to adequately re-describe that moment for you, but I also feel like that would be an insult to the man who truly immortalized it.
So, Mr. Tom Cheek, take it away...
“Two balls and two strikes on him. Here’s the pitch on the way... a swing AND A BELT... LEFT FIELD... WAY BACK... BLUE JAYS WIN IT! THE BLUE JAYS ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS AS JOE CARTER HITS A 3-RUN HOME RUN IN THE NINTH INNING! AND THE BLUE JAYS HAVE REPEATED AS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS...”
Then, of course...
“Touch em all, Joe... You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
(Cue the goosebumps).
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but does it ever get old? If you don’t get fired up watching Carter go nuts as he rounds the bases then check your pulse.
There’s something about watching a grown man, a professional athlete at that, reduced - no, UPLIFTED - to pure childish elation, jumping up and down with complete abandon.
In another setting it could have been the most awkward celebration ever, but on that day it was the absolute greatest.
To think that Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams shook off the original 2-2 pitch to go with a fastball... when one pitch earlier Carter had whiffed on a nasty 2-1 slider.
As they say, the rest is history...
I know that was quite the digression from my own story of meeting Carter at the game, but I’m always happy to take that trip down memory lane.
Now the first thing I thought when I saw Joe Carter in person was that he looked like he could still play. No chance he was actually 55-years-old.
He was busy taking photos with everyone in the box directly to my right, while me and the rest of the Canadian Baseball Network crew jealously, yet unashamed, ignored the game and continued staring at the Toronto legend.
After striking up a conversation with a woman in the adjacent box, she asked if I wanted to meet him (uhhh, what?). She went over and whispered something to Joe - who then came made his way over for a quick chat.
And let me tell you, this guy is a PRESENCE. It’s no surprise he had four seasons with the Jays in which he hit 30 or more home runs. I’d be terrified to pitch to him.
When I told him he should still be down there on the field he simply laughed and said, “Thanks, but I only play golf now.”
In the brief conversation that followed two things became readily apparent.
One - he is very proud of his charity work.
The Joe Carter Classic golf tournament has become one of the premiere events of the summer, with a who’s-who list of celebrity athlete attendees.
But what Carter was quick to point out was the money it raises and all the good it does in support of the Children’s Aid Foundation.
Two - he still loves baseball... and the Blue Jays.
Anytime the crowd roared or a big play was made during the game, Carter would stop what he was doing (sometimes mid-sentence) and turn to see what had happened.
He’d get all serious, just for a second, and then make a quick comment about the play, as if only to himself. Never shy to crack a joke, he’d then go right back to entertaining.
I also came to the realization, somewhat embarrassingly, that I didn’t know as much about Joe Carter as I thought I did (not only about his personality and his work off the field, but about how he played the game).
He obviously hit for power, but just how good was he?
After examining his stats I couldn’t help but be reminded of another more recent Joe(y) -
- Joey Bats.
Turns out Carter and Jose Bautista have a lot in common.
In his 1,039 games with Toronto, Carter had a .257 average, .781 OPS, 203 home runs, and 578 runs scored. He made the all-star team five-times.
Bautista, in 879 games with the Blue Jays, has a .265 average, .921 OPS, 218 home runs, and 572 runs scored. He is also a five-time all-star (and counting).
These numbers are similar, and (somewhat surprisingly?) it seems that Bautista even has a slight edge statistically. But there is one... no, two things he’s missing.
World Series Championships (plural).
“Touch em’ all, Joe-y...”?
We can only hope.
But until that happens we’ll just keep reminiscing about the original JOE.
Follow Tyler and #section108 on twitter: @tylerjoseph108